I saw a documentary called Kumari, made by a second generation Hindu living in Los Angeles. I think his name was Dave, or Jim, or something like that. He was raised as an all-American boy, and his film documented his real life experiment of adopting the guise of an enlightened Hindu yogi. At age 26 he went to India to study hatha yoga and observe the wandering yogis. When he returned, he decided to grow his hair and wear the orange robes and beads of an Indian sannyasi. He adopted the accent of a Hindu speaking English.
He then took two women friends who taught hatha yoga, and he set up a store front shop as an enlightened yogi in a Los Angeles suburb. Slowly, more and more people, young and old, came to study with him. He would sit cross-legged across from a disciple and listen deeply and empathetically to the disciple’s problems. He and his yoga associates set up “intensives” where disciples would send “blue light” to each other. He even lead them in chanting his name, “Kumari jaya jaya.”
There were many testimonials by disciples of how Kumari had changed their lives, and how they saw their “inner light.” At the end of the film Jim – or whatever his name – has an “unveiling” of his true identity. About one half of his disciples left in shock, but the other half laughed and embraced him, saying it was a good joke.
Based on my life experiences with spiritual gurus and teachers, this film was really disturbing and creepy.
So,the documentary is humiliating – that we could be so easily duped. On the other hand, it shows that we essentially need each other. In our daily, work-based lives, we do not communicate deeply, at the level we would call “spiritual.” This documentary suggests that even if the teacher is a phony, the premise of two people meeting deeply is authentic. The problem, of course, is that the “spiritual teacher” often ends up exploiting his followers – most especially, taking sexual advantage of the adoring female followers.
The more relationships I have with teachers, the more mysterious and confusing this has become.